Monday, December 12, 2016

Failed Prospects Pt. 16: Will Middlebrooks

To call Will Middlebrooks a bust is probably a little harsh.  He did have a terrific rookie season with the Red Sox, though it was ultimately cut short by injuries, and of course he started late.  I really liked watching Will Middlebrooks, at least when he was hitting.  I was in attendance at a game in Kansas City in which Middlebrooks was the big hitting star.  He hit two home runs and a double.  Each of the home runs was down the line, though one was to left and the other to right.  That performance was hard to forget, even after Middlebrooks's strikeouts were piling up in other years.
Middlebrooks was picked in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft and rose to be Boston's top prospect a few years later.  He showed some big power in 2011, hitting 23 home runs across three levels in the minors and hit .285, though his OBP was pretty low, which was a harbinger of things to come from him.  The 2012 Red Sox were a mess.  Kevin Youkilis was the starting third-baseman but he was struggling and was not getting along with new manager Bobby Valentine.  Boston eventually called up Middlebrooks and Youkilis's days were numbered.  He was eventually traded to the White Sox and Middlebrooks was the new third-baseman.
He had a very good rookie season, hitting .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 75 games.  He suffered a wrist injury that ended his season early.  It was clear he had some holes in his swing and was susceptible to striking out, but if he could cut down the strikeouts and increase the walks, he could have been a pretty decent player.  He definitely had power.  He was not a terrific defensive player, but he could get the job done.
After the season, Boston refused to part with Middlebrooks in trade.  He was expected to step in and be the starting third-baseman in 2013.  And he had some good games.  His power was definitely present and he hit three home runs in one game at Toronto.  For the season, he hit a career high 17 home runs, but only drove in 49 and his slash line was an unimpressive .227/.271/.425.  He eventually lost his job to rookie Xander Bogaerts and even spent some time in the minors.  Middlebrooks played in the postseason, but only picked up four hits, including two doubles, in 28 at-bats.  He did not play in the field after a bizarre play in which he was ruled to have interfered with Allen Craig at third base in the bottom of the 9th.  Craig was ruled to have scored the winning run.
The next season, Middlebrooks was again given the opportunity to start the season, though not as much was expected out of him and he was also not given as much opportunity to prove himself.  He ended up playing in just 63 games and he only managed to hit two home runs while hitting .191/.256/.265.  Pablo Sandoval was signed as a free agent after the 2014 season and it was clear Middlebrooks was on his way out.  Boston traded him for Ryan Hanigan, a backup catcher.  Just two seasons after Boston refused to part with him for anyone, Middlebrooks was traded for a backup catcher.
Middlebrooks played in 83 games for the Padres in 2015, but only managed a .212/.241/.361 line with nine home runs.  He was tried out at shortstop, but that was not a good idea.  In 2016, Middlebrooks played in just 10 games with the Brewers.  He was signed as a low-risk free agent by the Rangers earlier this offseason.
For his Red Sox career, Middlebrooks hit .237/.284/.411 with 34 home runs and 122 RBIs.  He is still just 27 years old, but he is running out of time to show that he can be a quality hitter.  The power is real, but he could never make enough contact to make use of it.


  1. He flamed out really quick. But he did score Jenny Dell